It goes without saying that we’re living in some uncertain times. School closures, remote working, social distancing, and sheltering in place have all become our new reality. For many local businesses across America, this new reality has proven to be a difficult challenge. Here are six ways we’ve seen technology, social media, and old-fashioned ingenuity leveraged to keep small business doing what it does best; serve and support the local community.
Facetime: Can’t shop in person, why not do it virtually?
Who says that Facetime feature is only for talking to grandparents? Let your customers know how to reach you, while giving your employees a chance to keep working. It may not be quite the same as seeing a customer in person, but it does go a long way towards showing that you care about the shopping experience and the personal connection with your customers. And for an added bonus, more than just connecting to your current clientele, video collaboration tools can help you reach new customers outside of your local area.
Instagram: No website redesign needed; connect with customers socially
Everybody’s on “The Gram” these days and chances are you are too. It may be tough to spin up an online ordering platform if you don’t have one already, or to redesign your website to encourage online shopping instead of in-person visits. But social media platforms have given us unprecedented ability to communicate with lots of customers individually and all at once. Leverage your employees’ love for scrolling through their feed and engage with your customers. Direct Messages (DM’s) are a great way of communicating directly…and taking orders.
Local Delivery: When someone wants to buy, take it to them
While many of us are stuck at home with a houseful of kids and very little idle time. There is a good chance that some of your employees may have some free time on their hands. Let your customers know that if they can’t come to you, you can come to them. Enable remote purchasing and let your customers know that you can deliver. It’s been the go-to method for pizza for a long time. There isn’t any reason it can’t work for a new pair of shoes or a piece of furniture. Chances are we’re all going to be spending a lot more time on the couch, might be time for a new one.
YouTube: Yoga routines, product demonstrations… Take video and share it
While we’re not supposed to be going to the gym or heading to the store to check out things in person, it doesn’t mean customers can’t get what they want. YouTube and other content distributors already have a catalog of workout routines and product reviews available, but they probably aren’t from your local business. There has never been a better time to fire up the camera and start putting together some video content. Share it socially and with your email database and maintain a connection with your customers, even if they can’t come to see you in person.
Drive Through: Not just for fast food, make purchases possible without ever stepping inside
Delivery isn’t always an option, but drive-through can be. Whether your customers want to pick up a new pair of sweats so they can work-from-home more comfortably or are looking to grab a few steaks so they can break up the monotony of frozen pizza – offering them the ability to grab things curbside can be a real benefit. Keep the lines of communication open and let people know that picking up anything from your shop can be as easy as Taco Bell has made it for years.
Gift Cards: We’ve never needed more support from one another, let the gift-giving begin
We’re all seeing less and less of each other these days, but that doesn’t mean your customers can’t still celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, or even just send a “thinking about you” gift to their family and friends. Offering an e-gift card program or selling gift certificates via mail can provide an immediate infusion of revenue and allow patrons to cash in now or at a later date. Gift cards for locally-owned restaurants and retailers are a fantastic gift for anyone in your community. Let people you know you have gift cards and let them know how they can be redeemed…if you’ve made it through this whole list, you should have plenty of options.
I made the tough decision to close up shop Monday. We’re living in a crazy time and no one knows what’s the right or wrong thing to do all I knew was I wanted to do my part in keeping everyone safe. We suspended all in person shopping and switched to deliveries and pick ups only. This may be the new norm for a while and our community is coming out to support all their favorites in a big way. Sacramento small businesses will not be going out without a big fight. It’s time to get creative and that’s one thing Sacramento is not lacking creativityVanessa Lopez, Heart Clothing Boutique Sacramento, CA
While all these solutions can certainly help keep small businesses running in these uncertain times, they all require a bit of technology to implement. Connectivity is key to keeping the phone lines open and the internet connection humming. Collaboration tools and other software applications may be needed in order to streamline the experience for customers and employees. Local businesses are fighting hard to stay afloat out there, and they need to be supported with bold ideas, good infrastructure, and dollars. In today’s modern world there a lot of ways that all of us can make that happen.